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Saint Liam in a landslide
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Saint Liam, who completed his outstanding campaign with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, on Monday was announced as the 2005 Horse of the Year at the 35th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Saint Liam last year also captured the Donn Handicap, Stephen Foster Handicap, and Woodward Stakes. He easily outdistanced 3-year-old male champion Afleet Alex, 194-56, among voters who cast ballots for Horse of the Year. Others receiving a single vote each for Horse of the Year were Ghostzapper, sprint champion Lost in the Fog, Rock Hard Ten, and Roses in May. There were eight abstentions.
Saint Liam became the second consecutive horse, following Ghostzapper in 2004, to parlay victories in the Woodward and Breeders' Cup Classic to Horse of the Year. He was trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. and owned by William Warren Jr.
Both Saint Liam and Afleet Alex were overwhelming winners in their divisions, with Saint Liam named champion older horse and Afleet Alex champion 3-year-old male. In the two closest votes, Michael Gill edged Eugene Melnyk for champion owner, and Leroidesanimaux topped Artie Schiller for champion male turf horse.
Saint Liam received 250 votes as champion older male horse. Ghostzapper, whose lone start last year was a victory in the Metropolitan Handicap, was a distant second with five votes. Rock Hard Ten (3) and Roses in May (1) also received first-place votes. There were three abstentions.
Afleet Alex, who last year won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes for trainer Tim Ritchey, won by a similarly large margin for champion 3-year-old male. He outpolled Flower Alley, the Travers Stakes winner and Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up, 253-6. There were three abstentions in that category. Afleet Alex's owners, the Cash Is King Racing Stable partnership headed by Chuck Zacney, received a Special Eclipse Award for their charitable work to fight pediatric cancer.
The winners of the racing categories, both human and equine, were announced at the black-tie dinner. Winners were determined by 262 voters - 132 from the National Turf Writers Association, 64 from Daily Racing Form, and 66 from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which includes racing secretaries and members of Equibase. All votes are pooled. Bloc voting was phased out several years ago.
The pooling of votes made a difference in two close categories. In the tightest vote of the year, Atto Mile winner Leroidesanimaux eked out a victory over Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller, 119 votes to 116, for champion male turf horse, even though Artie Schiller defeated Leroidesanimaux in their lone head-to-head meeting in the Breeders' Cup. Both the turf writers (65-53) and NTRA (32-26) sided with Artie Schiller, but Leroidesanimaux was so fancied among Daily Racing Form voters (40-19) that he carried the division, despite losing two of the three blocs.
There was a similar outcome in voting for champion owner, in which Gill defeated Melnyk by a 75-64 margin despite Melnyk carrying two of the three blocs. Both the turf writers (34-31) and DRF (17-13) preferred Melnyk, yet the NTRA's overwhelming vote for Gill, 31-13, gave him the Eclipse in a category in which 11 persons or stables received votes. Gill's large, claiming-based stable led the nation in purse earnings, but did not win any Grade 1 stakes races and had no horses that were Eclipse finalists. Melnyk's stable, which finished second in purse earnings, was headed by Flower Alley.
Voters also followed the money in several other categories. In addition to Gill, voters bestowed Eclipse Awards on trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey John Velazquez, apprentice jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, and breeder Adena Springs, each of whom were earnings leaders in their respective categories.
For both Pletcher and Velazquez, each of whom set single-season records for purse earnings, it was their second straight Eclipse Award. Pletcher - whose runners earned $20,867,842 last year and included Flower Alley and older filly or mare champ Ashado - finished far in front of second-place Steve Asmussen, 226 votes to 15, with Bobby Frankel third with five votes.
Frankel, however, became the first trainer to have both the male and female turf champs in the same year, with Leroidesanimaux and female winner Intercontinental. He was the only trainer represented by two Eclipse Award winners.
Both Dutrow and Ritchey, the trainers of the top two candidates for Horse of the Year, finished in a tie for fourth with four votes each.
Velazquez, whose mounts won $24,393,723 last year, also was a runaway winner. He received 195 votes to easily outdistance Edgar Prado (20 votes) and Jerry Bailey (19).
Wilson, the Canadian-based rider who also won her country's Sovereign Award, was an easy winner over second-place Channing Hill, 185-42.
Adena Springs, the breeding arm of owner Frank Stronach's empire, won the Eclipse Award for the second straight year. It was Stronach's third Eclipse as champion breeder. Adena Springs beat runner-up Edward P. Evans, the breeder of Saint Liam, by 129-53 in a category in which 13 persons or stables received votes.
The other winners were favored to prevail, and did so by fairly wide margins.
The most overwhelming winner was Folklore, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and was named champion 2-year-old filly. She received 257 votes out of 260 cast in her division; there were two abstentions. Wild Fit received two votes (one from a turf writer, the other from an NTRA voter), and French Park received a single vote from a turf writer. Folklore's victory marks the record 24th Eclipse Award received by a horse trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
Stevie Wonderboy, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, captured the champion 2-year-old male Eclipse Award. He received 230 votes. First Samurai, the Champagne Stakes winner, was second with 25 votes.
Ashado, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2004, was named champion older filly or mare, becoming the first filly to win those two categories since Life's Magic in 1984-85. Ashado won three Grade 1 races last year. She received 203 votes to easily defeat second-place Pleasant Home, whose 49 votes were earned largely via her upset victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Pleasant Home's owner, Ogden Mills Phipps, and trainer, Shug McGaughey, did not go away empty-handed. They were honored for Smuggler, who was named champion 3-year-old filly for her victories in the Mother Goose Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks. Smuggler received 177 votes to outdistance Indian Vale (24 votes), Summerly (20), and Round Pond (16).
The popular Lost in the Fog was named champion sprinter, despite suffering his first career loss in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He received 209 votes to just 30 for Silver Train, the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner.
Intercontinental, who won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, received 245 votes out of the 258 cast for champion female turf horse. Cesario, the Japanese filly whose lone U.S. start was a powerful victory in the American Oaks, was second with eight votes.
McDynamo was named champion steeplechase horse for the second time in three years; he also won in 2003. He received 226 votes. Hirapour, the 2004 Eclipse Award winner, Preemptive Strike, and Sur La Tete each received two votes.
In addition to those awards, Penny Chenery received a long-overdue Eclipse Award of Merit more than 30 years after her Secretariat swept the Triple Crown.
Media winners included Bob Ford (commentary), Janet Patton (enterprise reporting), Lynn Roberts (photography), NBC Sports (both national television and feature story), WAVE 3 TV (local television), and Sirius Satellite Radio (audio).
How they voted
Voters were asked to rank the top three finishers in each division. Winners were determined by first-place votes only, from members of the consolidated voting entities, NTRA/Equibase, Daily Racing Form, and National Turf Writers Association.
Stevie Wonderboy, 230; First Samurai, 25; Bluegrass Cat, 1; Henny Hughes 1; Private Vow, 1; What a Song, 1. Voter abstentions, 3.
Folklore, 257; Wild Fit, 2; French Park, 1. Abstentions, 2.
Afleet Alex, 253; Flower Alley, 6. Abstentions, 3.
Smuggler, 177; Indian Vale, 24; Summerly, 20; Round Pond, 16; In the Gold, 9; Sweet Catomine, 9; Cesario (JPN), 2; Leave Me Alone, 1; Splendid Blended, 1; Sweet Symphony, 1. Abstentions, 2.
Saint Liam, 250; Ghostzapper, 5; Rock Hard Ten, 3; Roses in May; 1. Abstentions, 3.
Ashado, 203; Pleasant Home, 49; Intercontinental (GB), 2; Stellar Jayne, 2; Dream of Summer, 1; Pampered Princess, 1. Abstentions, 3.
Lost in the Fog, 209; Silver Train, 30; Saratoga County, 11; Ghostzapper, 7; Purge, 1; Taste of Paradise, 1. Abstentions 3.
Male Turf Horse
Leroidesanimaux, 119; Artie Schiller, 116; Shirocco (GER), 17; Powerscourt (GB), 3; Kitten's Joy, 2; Relaxed Gesture, 2. Abstentions, 3.
Female Turf Horse
Intercontinental (GB), 245; Cesario (JPN), 8; Gorella, 1; Ouija Board (GB), 1; Sweet Talker (GB), 1. Abstentions, 4.
McDynamo , 226; Hirapour (IRE), 2; Preemptive Strike, 2; Sur La Tete, 2; Paradise's Boss, 1. Abstentions, 29.
Horse of the Year
Saint Liam, 194; Aflleet Alex, 56; Ghostzapper, 1; Lost in the Fog, 1; Rock Hard Ten, 1; Roses in May, 1. Voter Abstentions, 8.
Michael Gill, 75; Melnyk Racing Stables, Inc., 64; Live Oak Plantation, 42; Phipps Stable, 19; Cash is King LLC, 14; Robert Bone, 11; Eugene and Laura Melnyk, 2; Sam-Son Farm, 2; Harry Aleo, 9; Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren, Jr., 8; Mr. and Mrs. Jerome S. Moss, 4; Stronach Stables, 4; Juddmonte Farms, Inc., 1. Abstentions, 11.
Adena Springs, 129; Edward P. Evans, 53; Live Oak Stud, 27; Phipps Stable, 11; John Franks, 9; Juddmonte Farms, Inc., 7; Farnsworth Farms, 5; Wimborne Farm, Inc., 3; John Martin Silvertand, 2; William S. Farish, 1; John Gunther, 1; Liberation Farm, 1; Old English Rancho, 1. Abstentions, 11.
Todd Pletcher, 226; Steve Asmussen, 15; Robert Frankel, 5; Richard Dutrow, Jr., 4; Tim Ritchey, 4; Greg Gilchrist, 1; Claude R. McGaughey, III, 1; William I. Mott, 1; Cole Norman, 1; Nick Zito, 1. Abstentions, 3.
John Velazquez, 195; Edgar Prado, 20; Jerry Bailey, 19; Garrett Gomez, 12; Russell Baze, 6; Ramon Dominguez, 3; Rafael Bejarano, 2; Eddie Castro, 1; Gary Stevens, 1; Patrick Valenzuela, 1. Abstentions, 2.
Emma-Jayne Wilson, 185; Channing Hill, 42; Justin Stein, 11; Kyle Kaenel, 3; Gerald Almodovar, 1; David Cohen, 1; Corey Fraser, 1; Abstentions, 18.
Voter participation rate: 80%